Monthly Archives: June 2015

A letter

Dear Sor Juana,

As the slimmest of shine from the moon waxed in our skies this week to welcome a new month (and for our friends who follow Islam Ramadan) Pope Francis sent a letter, not just to his faithful but one addressed to all the people on the planet, our common home. It is a powerful letter, especially to those of us in developed countries and invoking his namesake he calls us all to action.  I am going to leave it other commentators to distil and repackage for public consumption.

The power of receiving and writing letters I have written about previously.  I am currently doing a writing challenge where every day I am writing one thousand words and have chosen to write a letter each day for the month of June to someone who has provided me with a topic.  The experience of writing to someone means I factor in what I know about that person and what might I be able to gift to them in my words.

As you wrote,  “one can perfectly well philosophize while cooking supper”.  The ordinary everyday task of combining making a meal and making meaning happens in kitchens all over the world – and I have certainly done so in my own – if only talking to the pots and pans. The deep conversations bringing tenor, building compassion and opening us to new ideas make the space to be held between us.

However there is something In writing a letter that creates an intimate platform to hold the space for between the reader and the writer and offers potential for intimacy to build or deepen a relationship. There is also the commitment to put yourself on the line when you write both in the personal and public domains and the deep betrayal that occurs when those words get into the wrong hands or to a wider unintended audience.  The betrayal and anger you felt when one of your private letters was shared led to one of your greatest pieces.  Sharing yourself in words has a vulnerability and potential for humiliation as I expressed in a letter to my friend Christine.  And when those words are acclaimed and command attention with the power of popularity or office of the writer words can hold a powerful charge when committed to publication.

Pope Francis could have chosen a sermon, a TV or radio interview, a you tube clip, but he went with a letter. This letter ends with two prayers, one in particular calling upon all believers to be the light to those who are in the dark about how to protect our sister, Mother Earth, to hear her cries and the cries of the poor.  He urges us to prepare for better times ahead to midwife and partner for growing beauty, love, justice and peace.  Now in print, these words can be unheard or undone and the personal invitation is offered for us to take up and I may well write a letter back to him thanking him for his correspondence and with a prayer of my own for him and for all of us who use the pen and digital platforms for transformative action for our selves and others.

Enlighten those who possess power and money
that they may avoid the sin of indifference,
that they may love the common good, advance the weak,
and care for this world in which we live.
The poor and the earth are crying out.


Blessed be they who write letters, may their letters be received, wrapped in vulnerability and courage.

Blessed are they who read letters, may their hearts be open to the intimacy of the letter and find a word for their pilgrimage.

Border Crossings

Dear Sor Juana,

Every time I go cross a border I wonder if I am brave enough to put down my occupation as poet or pilgrim or even writer. My wondering stops when I enter something more benign and less exotic like social worker or administrator. I’ve been tempted to put policy wonk, facilitator, adventurer, mother, daughter, wife or sister as well. And I also wonder why it seems to stump me each time. Being named by others is one thing, naming yourself is another.

The everyday borders we cross down our street where we are a neighbour, resident, postcode denoting more variables about who we might be, let in potential myths or half-truths as well. Getting on and off at various train stations can even bring definition to our status and have qualities bestowed upon us. There are many markers.

I prefer a more chameleon like existence, not always so clearly defined and a bit fudgy around the edges, being able to melt into places, spaces and conversations and I especially like the element of surprise I might bring. Like poetry, a little twist in the tale, can open up a new possibility and provide an insight, liberate an idea that might have been germinating in the darkness. Your response Sor Juana to your critics was to become silent and that would have been a huge surprise as you were feigned for what your vocalised in your poems, plays, letters and teachings. Joining the convent to avoid marriage and to continue your studies, and then applying your learning to address the authorities of the church were also skilful manoeuvres to stay true to your own naming of yourself as a writer and thinker.

Passing through the real and metaphorical borders with grace and grit, whatever name we are given or give ourselves, calls us to an inner stillness to our truest self and that may well cause us to hold the moment with silence.


Corners of the Sky

Dear Sor Juana,

My grandmother-in-waiting status is coming to an end with every passing day. Passing from one stage of your life to another through these thresholds is worthy of some ritual and so this week made visits to local poetry groups to share some poems that reflected this time in my life. Longing for a more compassionate and tolerant world for my grandchild to grow up in and finding a new voice were among the themes.  These in-between places are worthy of a stop in the journey and not to rush too quickly to the next stage of life.

Between motherhood and grand-motherhood
Lies a second chance precipice
From this vantage point – crone wisdom
Re-membering rhymes and recipes
for bathtime and sleep.
The looking glass reveals readiness
Leaning in, a privileged peek into the future,
Deep time heart beat pulsing under ribs
A new Adam making his way to meet us.

(C) Moira Deslandes, 2015

To be in transit, passing through one stage casts a shadow on the horizon and the moon this week has been spectacular shining her light and dancing through the clouds bringing all kinds of light and darkness to my window.  Sister Moon simply cycling through the seasons in even time while the early winter swirls of cloud and rain waft around her, is a gentle evening reminder that everything has its season.  I find myself singing softly to the dawn a song from a Steven Schwartz musical Pippen: Corner of the Sky in these moments knowing that there is a corner of this big, wide sky that holds me close and invites me to find rest there as I move from the dawn into day, or dusk into night, or indeed grandmother-in-waiting to grandmother.

I am in spending this last month of my ‘in waiting’ status undertaking a challenge of writing a 1000 words a day from topics given to me by others. I am doing my writing as a letter to each of the people who have offered me the topic.

You wrote quite a few letters as well Sor Juana and it is a lovely thing to do to give and also I know how much I still love to receive a letter written to me, not one manufactured or delivered by rote. It is a rare commodity to receive a letter, just to you these days!  From your convent and from your age, you gift me with a sense of determination and endurance. I feel you offer me stamina, a passion for writing, for poetry, for service and sisterhood.

Writing to you each week gives me the opportunity to get to know you better and even though your replies come to me outside of the printed word there is a conversation going on between our corners of the sky.